"So… what do you think are the chances that your dad will be waiting by the front door with a shotgun when we get there?"
Blaine took his eyes off the road ahead of them for just a moment, a teasing grin on his face as he quirked a questioning eyebrow in Kurt's direction. Kurt couldn't quite suppress the smirk of amusement that rose to his lips at the question, although the actual image that sprung to his mind was more horrifying than funny – because it wasn't really all that far-fetched an idea.
"Slim to none," he assured Blaine, shaking his head. "My father doesn't own a gun." Kurt was silent for a moment, executing his flawless sense of dramatic timing when he added a beat later, "Well… he didn't when I left, anyway. I have been talking about you a lot lately…"
"Shut up!" Blaine laughed without taking his eyes from the windshield, reaching out a hand to blindly shove at Kurt's shoulder. "I'm freaked out enough already!"
Kurt dodged the light blow with a soft laugh, reaching out a hand to run affectionately through the hair at the back of Blaine's head, as Blaine allowed his own hand to fall to rest casually on Kurt's thigh.
"Don't be." Kurt tried to be encouraging, though he knew that, all joking aside, the task of meeting with Burt Hummel's approval was a very real challenge that Blaine faced during this visit. Shotgun or no, Kurt's father could be very intimidating when he wanted to be. Still, Kurt promised with a bright, genuine smile, "They're going to love you. How could they not?"
He couldn't imagine anyone knowing his sweet, wonderful boyfriend for more than a few minutes without falling head over heels in love with him. Well, maybe not quite as head over heels as he had fallen, because that was hardly possible – but Blaine was everything that he'd ever hoped for, in the long years he'd spent wishing for the dream boyfriend that he had been fairly certain he'd never really find.
Blaine was affectionate and attentive, talented and intelligent and devastatingly romantic. Kurt would never forget the afternoon nearly a month earlier, when Blaine had asked him out – on a real, official, actual date. He'd taken him to a nice restaurant, the kind of place his old friends wouldn't have been able to pronounce, much less afford. He'd paid for the meal, and then taken Kurt for a walk in a moonlit park – just the two of them in the frosty winter air, with the sparkling starlight overhead, and Blaine's arm wrapped around him, warm and protective, to shield against the chill.
It had felt like a dream – and that was before Blaine had stopped them along a breathtaking overlook, turning to face him and taking both of his hands and asking – actually asking for permission – to kiss him.
Of course, Kurt couldn't have said anything but yes – and the same was true at the end of the evening, when Blaine dropped him off at the door to his room, kissed him softly again, and asked Kurt if he would do him the honor of being his boyfriend.
"Blaine," Kurt persisted when he couldn't help but notice the nervous tension in the set of Blaine's jaw, the way his smile was a little too tight, "Seriously. Relax. It's going to be fine. I promise I won't let my dad give you too hard a time."
Blaine's smile softened a little at Kurt's reassurances, and he gave Kurt's leg a grateful little squeeze, just as they stopped at the first light entering Lima. His attention momentarily free, Blaine turned toward Kurt with a smile and reached out his free hand to brush against Kurt's face in an affectionate caress.
Without really meaning to, Kurt tensed slightly at the unexpected contact, his mind immediately going back to the previous evening – and Blaine's smile faded instantly at his reaction. Kurt's stomach clenched, and he braced himself for the continuation of the argument they'd had the night before, biting his lower lip and forcing himself to meet Blaine's gaze, afraid of what he would see there.
But all he saw was a deep sense of regret in Blaine's sad dark eyes. Blaine tilted his head slightly as he ran his thumb very gently across Kurt's cheek.
"I'm so sorry, baby," Blaine murmured, and the sheen of unshed tears in his eyes proved his words true. "It will never happen again – all right? I promise."
Kurt nodded, closing his eyes and leaning deliberately into Blaine's fingertips in silent acceptance of his promise. He could feel the sincerity in Blaine's gentle, almost reverent touch – hear it in the tearful sound of his voice.
Blaine was right, Kurt was sure. It wouldn't happen again.
Because I'm not going to screw up again. If I can be what he needs me to be – make him happy… if I can just keep things from getting so out of hand again… then everything will be just fine.
He's right. It's never going to happen again.
He settled back in his seat to enjoy the rest of the ride home, content in the closeness and affection of his boyfriend, eager to see his family after several weeks apart from them. Everything was going to be just fine, he reassured himself, drawing in a deep, steadying breath.
He was going to spend the next few days surrounded by those closest to him, the people he loved most in the world. His father, and his new mother and step-brother who had already begun to fill a void in their family that Kurt hadn't even realized existed – and his new boyfriend, when a year ago Kurt would have been certain that he'd never find someone to love him as completely, as passionately as Blaine did.
Yes, everything was just perfect – and this was going to be the best Christmas ever.
"Geez, Finn, we'll know it in a second anyway when they get to the door. Do you have to shout it at the top of your lungs?"
Burt grumbled – though Finn was pretty sure it was just a reaction to his own embarrassment over the way he'd immediately leapt to his feet and hurried to look out the window with Finn as soon as he had spoken. Burt was trying to stay calm and casual about the whole thing, but even Finn could see the anxious curiosity in his eyes as he peered past Finn out at the driveway where Kurt's Navigator had just parked.
Finn frowned when he saw a barely familiar face emerge from the driver's side of the car, recognizing the boy he had only met on the day they'd dropped Kurt off at Dalton. "Why's he driving Kurt's car?"
Burt was frowning, too, a wary note in his voice. "Guess Kurt let him drive. Not so sure he should be doing that…"
Carole approached at his side, reaching out to place a steadying hand on his arm, a knowing smile in her eyes. "Our insurance covers it." She was quiet for a second, patting Burt's arm soothingly as she added, "I used to let my boyfriends drive all the time when I was his age…"
"Let it go, sweetie." Her tone was gentle but firm, and she held his gaze until she was certain she'd made her point, before turning away and heading toward the kitchen. "Your baby is dating now, Burt," she added. "You'd better start getting used to the idea – and to the idea of picking your battles."
"What?" Burt headed off after her, an uneasy sound to his rising voice. "What is that supposed to mean? What battles?"
Finn left them to their conversation as he headed out the front door to help Kurt and Blaine with their bags.
When Kurt saw him, a brilliant smile broke out across his face, and Finn's response to it was automatic – instinctive. He moved forward to envelope the smaller boy in a warm, tight hug that clearly caught Kurt off guard, judging by the way he froze a moment in Finn's embrace before tentatively returning it.
Finn supposed that was to be expected. After all, the last time he'd hugged Kurt – at their parents' wedding – had also been the first time he'd ever hugged Kurt. The thought that Kurt was still getting used to the idea that Finn was now really and truly okay with him – with being physically close to him – was reassuring to Finn, but it also made him feel a little guilty that it had taken this long.
During the past month, he and Kurt had talked quite a bit on the phone – probably more than they'd ever talked in person in the entire time that they'd known each other – and Finn had been surprised at how much he'd actually enjoyed their conversations. More than once, Kurt had helped Finn out of a jam in his relationship with Rachel, giving him sound advice from a perspective he hadn't considered before.
And when their conversations occasionally turned toward deeper things, Finn was amazed to find out how much they actually had in common. Finn didn't know why it had never occurred to him before that Kurt had been through a lot of the same things he'd been through, and could relate to him in ways he hadn't expected.
He'd never stopped thinking of him as 'the weird gay kid who likes me' for long enough to give him a chance.
But I'm going to make up for it now, Finn reminded himself as he released his grip on his new little brother and drew back to turn his attention toward Blaine. I'm going to prove to Kurt that things aren't going to be like they used to be – not anymore.
"Hey, Blaine. How's it going?"
"Great. Merry Christmas Eve!"
Blaine's smile was bright and warm, but a little forced, and Finn felt a slight resistance to the half-hug, half-handshake he offered in the smaller boy's frame – but he supposed that if he was faced with the rather intimidating prospect of proving himself to Burt Hummel as a worthy boyfriend for his only son (and being stuck in the same house with him for several days, regardless of whether or not he succeeded), he would be pretty nervous, too.
Finn turned his attention back to Kurt as Blaine headed for the back of the car to open it up and unload their bags. He slung a companionable arm around Kurt's shoulders as the two of them followed him, a little more slowly, to load up and take the things inside.
"So, I had the hardest time figuring out what to get for your dad," Finn confessed, "but I know you said he needs to be eating healthy and stuff, and he likes to eat a lot of meat, and those two things don't really go together, so I figured I'd get him one of those George Foreman grills, you know? They cook food so that it's healthier, but it still tastes just as good usually. My mom had one but it stopped working right, so she threw it out when we moved…"
Kurt smiled, nodding. "That's a good idea."
"Really?" Finn was hopeful. "You think it's something he wants?"
"I think it's something he needs." Kurt shrugged lightly out from under Finn's arm as they reached the pile of bags at the back of the Navigator, and leaned down to pick up one in each hand. "When it comes to his health, I'm not really all that interested in what he wants."
Finn laughed, picking up a couple of the bags himself and heading toward the house. "Kurt – dude. You're only staying for a few days. How many bags did you bring?"
"Only two of these are mine," Blaine volunteered from behind them as Finn set the bags down long enough to open the front door again.
"There is a method to my madness, believe it or not," Kurt sniffed, pretending to be more offended than he actually was. "Half the stuff in those bags, I'm going to be leaving here when I go…"
Finn frowned, confused, and Kurt smiled slyly.
"… leaving plenty of room for my Christmas presents in my empty bags."
Finn froze for a moment, considering. "I never would have thought of that."
"I know," Kurt smugly replied, rolling his eyes and letting out a put-upon sigh. "I have so much to teach you…"
He caught Finn's eye a moment later, though, and his expression was warm and teasing. Finn couldn't help but smile back, despite the fact that the joke was at his expense, as he closed the door behind them, shutting out the cold winter air, and shutting them in with the warm scents of his mother's cooking and the Christmas candles she'd lit earlier. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes and feeling a deep sense of contentment settle over him.
They were all together and safe and happy, for the first time in as long as Finn could remember. It was the first Christmas Finn had ever had with a real, complete family – more than just himself and his mom – and he was certain that it was going to be the best Christmas ever.